The XX Factor

The United Nations Fired Wonder Woman for Being Too Sexy

Lynda Carter and Gal Gadot, actresses who have both portrayed Wonder Woman, announced her honorary ambassadorship in New York on Oct. 21.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Wonder Women may be fictional, but she is still too sexy to be a global role model for women and girls, the United Nations has concluded. The organization announced two months ago that the superheroine would serve as an honorary ambassador to promote gender equity, but after some public outcry and internal protests, the appointment is no more.

At issue was Wonder Woman’s sexed-up, tarty reputation—the skin-bearing suit, the thigh highs, hardly an empowering getup, opponents of the appointment argued, especially when the task at hand is to fight the sexual exploitation of women. U.N. staffers engaged in a silent protest when the ambassadorship was announced, and an online petition addressed to the secretary general circulated, criticizing the U.N. for choosing a character who is “not culturally encompassing or sensitive”: “It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls.”

The Wonder Woman announcement also came not long after the organization “rejected seven female candidates to be its next secretary-general, before choosing a man,” the New York Times noted. (Slate’s Double X Gabfest podcast discussed sexism and the United Nations in a bonus segment for Slate Plus members in October.)

A spokesman for the U.N. told the Times that au contraire, the complaints had no effect on the length of Wonder Woman’s honorary ambassadorship. But the petition signed by 45,000 people probably didn’t help.

Just as she isn’t the first woman to be fired for the way she dresses (can’t be too dowdy, can’t be too sexy … though, OK, her look was probably designed by a male comic-book artist in the first place, let’s not forget), Wonder Woman also wasn’t the first cartoon to be named an honorary U.N. ambassador: Previous appointments had gone to Winnie the Pooh, Tinker Bell, and one of the Angry Birds. The protests of Wonder Woman call to mind the endless debates of college commencement season speakers and our politically charged climate in general—a few years ago, who would have thought to protest what was essentially a public relations stunt concerning a comic book character? Well, a lot of people, it turns out: In this age of improving representation, people aren’t content to settle for imperfect role models, and maybe they shouldn’t have to. In any case, something tells me that Wonder Woman will be able to survive this career setback just fine.